What governments touted as a ‘road to resources’ on the Northwest Territories’ Arctic coast has become a nation-building exercise, as the dreams for an oil and gas boom fade.
Almost a decade ago, the territorial government said the $300-million project to build an all-weather road to the isolated community of Tuktoyaktuk would make exploration for oil and gas in the region more efficient and therefore more profitable.
The territorial government coughed up $99 million, in addition to $200 million in federal dollars, to connect the town of Inuvik to Tuktoyaktuk, population 900, with the 137-kilometre road.
While there was an ice road for four months every winter, in the warmer months, the only way in and out of Tuk was by plane. Now, after four years of construction, the Inuvik-Tuktoyaktuk Highway, is finally set to open this week.
But with a moratorium on oil and gas development in the Arctic for the foreseeable future, will the road be worth its hefty price tag?
For decades, Tuktoyaktuk has been a community grasping for the trickle-down spending of oil and gas companies — only to have the plummeting price of oil and the federal government destroy that hope.
The Mackenzie Delta region and its offshore extension represents what petroleum geologist Scott Montgomery calls a “giant to super-giant, completely untapped petroleum province.”
Montgomery, with the University of Washington, estimates that there are between 14.5 to 20 billion recoverable barrels of oil in the region. He calculates that it could be up to a $1.5-trillion resource.
Giving industry better, less expensive access to that resource was originally what made the…